As the 2018/19 Gulf Radical Cup draws to a close the top three spots were still very much up for grabs!
Testing took place in good conditions on the Thursday with Finnish pairing of Jani Hjerppi and Seppo Mantyla setting the pace with a 1.26.384 and then James Edmeades setting the pace with1.25’s on Friday morning on a faster track. Ian Roberts and Sergey Shalunov also posted times in the 1.25’s and 1.26’s so it was shaping up to be a competitive weekend.
As the teams and drivers woke for race day they were greeted with rain! However the circuit seemed to have been spared the worst of it and the track was dry for Q1. Jani Hjerppe took the Pole with a 1.25.111. Just 0.09 behind him was Sergey Shalunov, and third Sean Simpson. With only a five minute gap it was straight back out for Q2, this time Shalunov had a point to prove by setting the exact same blistering time within a thousandth of a second of his Q1 lap a great demonstration of consistency.
So Hjerppe lined up with Shalunov next to him as they raced off into turn one in a cloud of dust. Hjerppe managed to retain his lead with Shalunov and Simpson right behind him. Having missed the previous event Hjerpee went into this race with no pit penalty, while Shalunov having won the last race had the maximum 15 seconds. Roberts was in 4th right up the exhaust of Simpson, finding it tricky to get passed, so Roberts pitted as soon as the pitstop window opened. Simpson had a slow pitstop allowing Roberts past.
After all the pitstops were complete and the timesheets settled, it was Mantyla leading from Roberts, Shalanov and James Edmeades had moved up to 4th. With a 16 second gap between the two lead cars it looked like it was going to come down to the wire with Roberts taking 1 to 2 seconds a lap out of the leader. However just 5 laps from the end of the race Mantyla made a mistake allowing Roberts and Shalunov to get within 0.5 of a second. Roberts applied all the pressure that he could to get past, and when entering the club link Mantyla braked too late running wide, also allowing Shalunov past. In the mean time D5’s Edmeades had joined the party and he was desperate to deny the Finnish pairing the last step on the podium. Just on the last lap the D5 car got great drive out of turn 8, forcing through on the inside of turn 9. But it was GulfSport Racing’s two drivers Roberts and Shalunov having faultless drives to take a great first and second.
With double points for the last two rounds of the Gulf Radical Cup, all Jani Hjerppe needed to do was finish 5th to claim the title, but it was still wide open for 2nd and 3rd.
Starting on Pole for race 2 was Shalunov, however the sun was really not shining on him and when the team came to start his car before the race, nothing! This left the team franticly try to get it started. Motorsport can be cruel and this was cruelty at its best, given that it had run faultlessly only a few hours before.
So with the top spot of the grid empty it allowed D5’s James Edmeades to take the lead.
A few laps in and as Ian Roberts tried to pass the North Racing car driven by Hugh Smith they went side by side in to the club link, with Smith remaining in front. But into turn 16 Roberts took his chance from a fair way back, unfortunately clipping the back of the North Racing car sending them both in to a spin. The North Racing car coming to a permanent rest on the edge of the track, so the safety car had to be deployed. The packed bunched up depriving Edmeades of the lead he had built up!
Under the Safety Car for only two laps, racing started once again. Edmeades kept his lead and was keen to build it back up as much as he could going into the pit stops.
Meanwhile Ian Roberts was being served a drive-through penalty for his contact with the North Racing car earlier in the race, but unbelievably he had a buddy serving it with him by the name of Jani Hjerppe, having confused Ian's race number of 7 for his number of 17. Needless to say, there were dropped jaws a plenty in the pitlane as both cars cruised passed the teams!
Jeff Curtis had taken over the D5 car in a quick pit stop, but on lap 19 he did not emerge. He had stopped out the back with a transmission issue. This handed the lead to Simpson who had been keeping out of trouble and was putting in fast and consistent laps.
Roberts was now charging from the back eventually getting back to 3rd place, but it was Simpson taking the honours with a fantastic win.
So after the points had been calculated it was Hjerppe being crowned as the 2018/19 Gulf Radical Cup Champion and being awarded a fully funded race weekend at Silverstone in August with the Radical Factory Team. Vice Champion was Ian Roberts who will be off to Valencia for a fully funded test with Virage Racing in their Ligier LMP3 car.
However Simpson and Curtis/Edmeades were drawn for 3rd each with 168 points. As per the series regulations for a tie it’s all down to series wins, but both with 1 win each, its down to fastest laps - and that goes to the pairing of Curtis and Edmeades.
So amazing prizes, great venues and a great season of racing with 22 amateur drivers scoring points in the country's longest running sportscar championship.